Data breaches happen regularly all over the world. It is becoming increasingly clear that the majority of these incidents are carried out by those who are seeking to commit identity theft.
Recently, for example, the Franco-Dutch technology security firm Gemalto conducted a survey which found that identity theft accounts for 53 percent of the data breaches that occurred worldwide in the first half of 2015. During this period, an impressive 888 breaches were recorded, allowing 246 million records to be compromised.
Regular readers already know about the largest breach that occurred during the first half of the year. In February, hackers broke into Anthem Insurance and were able to steal 78.8 million records, which included names, birthdays, addresses, employment information and Social Security Numbers. Other countries have also seen notable breaches. For instance, this year Turkey’s General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs experienced its own record breaking breach that affected 50 million records.
“What we’re continuing to see is a large ROI for hackers with sophisticated attacks that expose massive amounts data records,” Jason Hart, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Data Protection at Gemalto, told Planet Biometrics. “Cyber criminals are still getting away with big and very valuable data sets. For instance, the average healthcare data breach in the first half of 2015 netted more than 450,000 data records, which is an increase of 200 percent compared to the same time last year.”
In the U.S., people have grown particularly concerned about the recent breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which resulted in the exposure of 21 million records. Federal officials believe that thieves with ties to the Chinese government stole the information from security clearance holders — as well as many of their family members — for use in blackmail efforts.
Though national security is an important concern, it isn’t the only thing the victims have to worry about. If their personal information ends up in the wrong hands, they could suffer significant financial setbacks at the hands of those who would open up credit accounts in their name. To prevent this, the government has invested heavily in credit monitoring services for the victims, spending $133 million to ensure that these people will be alerted as soon as something seems awry on their credit reports.
It’s an acknowledgement from the highest levels of government that credit monitoring services are crucial to prevent the fallout from identity theft. Though there are many steps people can take to reduce their risk of having their personal data compromised, there are no guarantees of data safety. Breaches happen, and sometimes they are unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean that the victims are helpless.
For the best protection, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain activity on your credit file that may be indicative of fraud. With this information, you can act immediately to protect yourself. If you are ever in a situation where your personal information is exposed, you’ll be glad to have the opportunity to find out in a timely manner